Recently introduced legislation would create another paid holiday for federal employees to celebrate Workers’ Memorial Day.
Introduced by Congressman Donald Norcross (D-NJ), the Workers’ Memorial Day Act (H.R. 3022) would establish a new federal holiday to honor and remember America’s workers who have been injured, become ill, and killed on the job.
The new federal holiday’s date would be on April 28 every year. Why April 28? It is the date the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (S. 2193) went into effect (April 28, 1971). April 28 became known as Workers’ Memorial Day in 1989 when AFL-CIO started observing it to honor workers who had died on the job.
In a statement about the bill, Norcross said:
As an electrician, I have had the unfortunate experience of being on a job where hard working Americans have lost their lives. That’s why I introduced the Workers’ Memorial Day Act, to remember our brothers and sisters who lost their lives while on the job and bring more attention to stronger working conditions for workers across the country. We have made great strides in making workplaces safer, but dangerous working conditions kill and injury thousands of workers every year. Our work is far from over and as a co-chair of the Labor Caucus and lifelong IBEW union member, I will continue to fight for safer workplaces and stronger health and safety standards and enforcement in Congress.
How Many Workers Have Died on the Job?
According to the latest available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 5,190 fatal work injuries in the United States in 2021. This was up from 4,764 in 2020, an 8.9% increase.
This was not the largest number in the last decade, however. As the chart below indicates, fatal work injuries trended higher from 2015-2019 and then dropped off in 2020.
The bulk of the deaths were from transportation incidents, mostly from roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicles. The second highest category was from falls, slips, or tripping incidents. Within that category, a “fall to a lower level” was the largest number of deaths. This suggests falling from a high position, such as when working on a building.
Growing List of Holidays for Federal Employees
Any proposed holiday which becomes a new federal holiday becomes a new paid holiday for federal employees by law.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) states, “Federal law (5 U.S.C. 6103) establishes the public holidays listed in these pages for Federal employees.”
In some years, federal employees get additional paid holidays, such as for an extra day off at Christmas if a president grants one, or federal employees in the Washington, DC area get a day off for inauguration day following a presidential election. 2021 was one such year as denoted in the list of 2021 federal holidays when inauguration day was held on January 20, 2021.
If other recent legislative proposals were to eventually become law, federal employees could have as many as 19 paid holidays in a typical year. In addition to the Workers’ Memorial Day bill, other recent proposals in Congress to create new federal holidays are: